WARK-ON-TWEED CASTLE, TD12 4RG
Postcode: TD12 4RG
Lat/Long: 5.641672N 2.281898W
Notes: Located in Wark the small village can be accessed via the B6350. The castle remains are not sign-posted but the motte stands tall above the settlement and is easily found. No dedicated car parking but onroad parking is possible.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The remains of the medieval motte which was heavily modified in the mid-sixteenth century to support an artillery tower. Some masonry fragments remains of this later structure. Some small elements of the Middle Ward still remain although much is now buried under the modern village. The outline of St Giles church can also be seen.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
1. Wark Castle is also known as Carham Castle.
2. Wark-on-Tweed is positioned on the shores of the River Tweed which, for a short distance from the sea, marks the English-Scottish border. This narrow neck of English land was protected by two lines of border fortresses. The most northerly were the castles of Berwick, Norham and Wark-on-Tweed which formed the primary frontier. Bamburgh - which held the coastal road south - along with Chillingham, Etal and Ford castles formed the second line of defences.
3. Prior to the construction of the bridge at Coldstream in the mid-eighteenth century, this was the primary crossing point into Scotland in the east.
4. Wark Castle has been associated with the establishment of Edward III's Order of the Garter. After having defeated the 1342 siege, Edward and his court were present at Wark but during proceedings a garter worn by the Countess of Salisbury is said to have slipped from her leg. To prevent scurrilous comments against the wife of William Montagu - his close friend and supporter - Edward fastened the Garter onto his own leg stating "Evil to him who thinks evil of it"; a motto that is retained by the order today. Whether this story is true is hotly debated - and even if correct has also been linked with other locations including Calais.
5. Note there was also a Wark-on-Tyne Castle in Northumberland.
St Giles Church. The remains of St Giles Church are visible.
River Tweed. The castle guarded a key ford over the River Tweed.
Little remains today of Wark-on-Tweed Castle but it was once a key border fortress. Originally guarding a strategic ford over the River Tweed, which until the bridge at Coldstream was constructed was the main eastern crossing into Scotland, it was embroiled in centuries of border warfare being captured and destroyed on multiple occasions.
HISTORY OF WARK-ON-TWEED CASTLE (WARK CASTLE)
Wark-on-Tweed Castle was originally built by Walter Espec no later than the early twelfth century on a glacial ridge overlooking a strategically important ford over the River Tweed. The initial castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey structure consisting of three Wards. The Inner Ward crowned the motte itself consisting of a wooden palisade and a timber tower. The Middle and Outer Wards extended to the east, under the modern village, and enclosed all the accommodation, workshops and residential areas associated with such a settlement.
Wark was attacked in 1138 by King David of Scotland. Taking advantage of the civil war (the Anarchy) raging between King Stephen and Queen Matilda, David invaded Northern England. Nominally in support of Matilda's claim, his key aim was the recovery of the former Kingdom of Northumbria. He was defeated at the Battle of the Standard at Northallerton on 22 August 1138 but in the agreement that secured the cessation of hostilities, the ongoing siege of Wark Castle was excluded. On the orders of Walter Espec, the garrison surrendered on 11 November 1138 but were allowed to depart by the Scottish King.
The Anarchy was ultimately settled with the succession of Matilda's son, Henry II, in 1154. During the war Henry had promised David that Northumbria would remain Scottish if he was crowned King. However, his overriding priority after his coronation was to restore the much depleted power of the English monarchy. In 1157 he turned his attention northwards to recover lands lost during his predecessors' reign. The new Scottish King, Malcolm IV, decided to avoid conflict with Henry II and returned Northumbria to the English in exchange for the Earldom of Huntingdon. With Wark now back in English (and Royal) hands, the castle was rebuilt in stone from 1158 onwards; the stone curtain wall around the Middle and Outer Wards was presumably added at this time and the Stone Keep (first recorded mention was not until 1365) could have been part of the upgrades. These defences seem to have been effective as the castle withstood an attack by William the Lion in 1174 prior to his defeat at the Second Battle of Alnwick.
The castle was granted to Sir Robert de Ros by King John in 1200. However, as relations between King and his senior Barons broke down, Robert joined twenty-five others and signed Magna Carta. Although John formally put his seal to the document on 15 June 1215, the King soon sought to revoke its terms prompting the start of the first Barons War. From September 1215 to March 1216 John launched a rapid military advance into the north attacking York, Durham, Berwick-upon-Tweed and advancing to Edinburgh. On his march north he attacked and destroyed Wark Castle. Confiscated by John the castle was restored to Robert during the reign of Henry III and was rebuilt no later than 1255 as at this time the English King hosted negotiations with the Scots in its Great Hall.
Unsurprisingly given its border location, Wark was involved in the Wars of Scottish Independence. Edward I stayed at the castle in November 1292 on his return to England after adjudicating over the Scottish succession and, when his elected candidate rebelled in 1296, Edward's forces advanced from here and onto victory at the Battle of Dunbar. In 1314 the next English monarch, Edward II, also mustered his forces here before marching north into Scotland; this advance proved less successful and culminated in the English rout at Bannockburn (1314). In the subsequent years Northern England was ransacked by Scottish forces attempting to force the English into agreeing a permanent settlement to the war. In the ongoing conflict Wark was extensively damaged and when granted to William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury in 1329 it was described as ruinous. The castle was (unsuccessfully) besieged by the Scots in 1342.
Wark was briefly owned by Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland but was acquired by Sir Thomas Grey in September 1398. The following year the Scots raided into Northern England once more with Wark and its surrounding area suffering heavily. Rebuilt again it was next attacked in 1460 by James II in support of the Lancastrian cause during the Wars of the Roses.
Although still owned by the Grey family, extensive modifications were made to the castle in the sixteenth century at Royal expense. In 1513 James IV of Scotland had, in support of the French, declared war against Henry VIII of England. He invaded and captured Wark Castle on his way south before his decisive defeat and death at the Battle of Flodden on 9 September 1513. Upgrades were ordered to this crucial border fortress including the first initial modifications for artillery. Nevertheless warfare continued warfare between the English and the Scottish with Wark being stormed by Scottish-French forces under John Stewart, Duke of Albany in November 1523. Whilst the garrison rallied and repulsed the attackers - aided by the arrival of significant reinforcements under Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey - it was clear the medieval castle needed updating. In 1543 this finally occurred; the motte was re-modelled into a four storey artillery tower known as 'the Ring'. Some stonework still visible on the mound dates from this modification.
With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the persistent border warfare died down. A garrison and ordnance was retained at Wark until 1633 but thereafter withdrawn. The castle was briefly occupied by Scottish forces in 1644 following the Solemn League and Covenant which saw their alliance with Parliament against Charles I. Thereafter the castle was abandoned and allowed to drift into ruin. The modern day settlement grew up in the Middle and Outer Wards eventually eliminating the castle and its walls by robbing its stonework.